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The Happy Squirrel  The Happy Squirrel is offline
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Join Date: 25 Jun 2014
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The Happy Squirrel 
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Why is the Thoth deck so popular?


I have just received my first Thoth deck (that isn't for collection purposes). Trimmed it, and sat with it and DuQuette's book. And already, only in the last few days I began to understand why this deck is so special.

I am not sure it is fair to compare this with Waite's system. Waite and Crowley came from very different places with their decks. My impression from what I have seen so far - which is limited - is that the two men were motivated by very different things.

It feels almost as if Waite aimed to 'democratise' the tarot. While Crowley seek to communicate a higher order of the world with his.

Waite brought the tarot to the masses, Crowley said to the masses 'look what I have, if you want to see you have to come to me'. Consistently, Waite created a system which used a variety of recognisable sources from existing tradition (Sola Busca, Marseilles, Christian mysticism, etc) to communicate forward what he had learned from the Golden Dawn adding his own take on it (having one's own take is fair enough I think). While Crowley synthesised a completely new set of artwork based in the GD original design and his own Thelema.

As such, The Thoth is a bit more 'elitist' while Waite's is 'populist'.

Waite's system is archetypal so that it allows us to project our own shapes onto it. Thus the 'RWS clones', which I would prefer to call 'RWS based framework'.

Crowley's thoth deck is so specific and specialised that it is impossible to project our own images onto it.

Some argue this is a sign of superiority of Crowley's deck. Burns would say it depends on what you need and what you want your deck for.

In terms of art, the art on the Thoth deck didn't appeal to me until recently. Once I saw the paintings without the borders, they jumped at me in all of its art nouveau and Art Deco glory. Not all of them are attractive to me, but enough are just wow. Especially after you learn a bit more about what each of them contain and why.

The art in this deck is also, I feel, judged by itself, is far more sophisticated than Pamela Coleman Smith's art, who by all account was a working artist, a hired hand, compared to Lady Harris who lived a life of relative privilege, presumably able to be as artistic as she wished to without worrying about where the next meal was going to come from and clearly a more equal partner to Crowley than Smith was to Waite.

So to answer the question: I think it is because the Thoth deck is a 'specialised' deck, one which was created as a culmination of a life work, instead of a deck which was created to make the mysterious less so, to make the inaccessible accessible. The Thoth will have to be pursued to be accessible. It doesn't come to you, you have to go to it. On top of that, the art work is superior in its sophistication not only aesthetically but philosophically compared to Waite's.

It doesn't make it better than Waite's in my opinion. Just explain why some are devoted to it.

It is more mysterious and beautiful than Waite's, and I think it is human nature to be drawn to beauty and mystery
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